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Is Afghanistan a killing field?

The horrid reality of war in Afghanistan isn’t properly and precisely relayed to the rest of the world. The collateral damage and disproportionate killings of innocent people as a byproduct of the current war are shocking. The United Nations roughly estimates that 32,000 civilians have been killed so far in the conflict – which is obviously an understatement given the massive number of innocents losing lives every day – but the actual figures may be staggeringly high. As the peace process in Afghanistan has had a few developments recently, the issue of transitional justice and redressal for war crimes committed by the US forces, NATO allies, the Taliban and the Afghan government has got Afghan masses and those victimized ‘distressed’. Aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in its Four Corners program, a disturbing and explosive documentary unearths the cold-blood killing of an unarmed Afghan civilian by an Australian Special Forces soldier in southern Uruzgan province in 2012. The impunity and ease in getting away with crimes have paved the way for such inhumane acts by foreign forces and all parties to the conflict. Lamentably, it isn’t only one but there are thousands of such cases that go unnoticed while nobody cares. Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorized an investigation of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the US, the Afghan, and the Taliban troops in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the US surprisingly didn’t consent to ICC’s jurisdiction once again. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced as “reckless” the ruling by ICC that the investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan could go ahead. This stance adopted by the US, which is still continuing its airstrikes and dropping bombs despite the recently inked peace deal, shows that the country is seeking ways to cover up its misdeeds in Afghanistan and in a manner, proves itself complicit in committing the crimes, as well as obstructing investigations into them. It means the ICC’s probe would prove ineffectual because the US being a huge party to the conflict is impeding it. Although Afghanistan is a signatory of the ICC, the Afghan government is also not lending weight to the probe. If the government and the US won’t stand by the victim of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all sides to the conflict in Afghanistan, they have no legitimate standing anymore to blame the Taliban militants for human rights abuses and war crimes and thus the situation is seemingly taking a turn for the worse in Afghanistan. Similarly, peace, if it is achieved, would mean nothing for the affected people because the intrinsic end of transitional justice, which is ending impunity and establishing the rule of law, would be lacking in our fragile context of democratic governance. At this hour, the responsibility of exposing scandals and triggering inquiries into such horrendous war crimes is now on the shoulders of the press. Media outlets should intensify their efforts and focus on investigative journalism to uncover the incidents of illegal killings, which are still being committed, by foreign troops in Afghanistan. It’s because they are the only force now to stand by and raise the Afghan victims’ unheard voices and nudge the international community to put an end to this situation. Otherwise, the status quo would persist and Afghanistan would continue to be treated as a killing field where nobody faces justice and prosecution while calls for human rights advocacy are seemingly just useless masquerades.

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